Here's what the Cardinals shouldn't do

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burrell.jpgThe Cardinals are in a sort of hot stove limbo, waiting on Matt Holliday to accept or reject their rumored five-year, $80 million offer and at the same time working on a proverbial Plan B if he lands elsewhere.

What “Plan B” involves isn’t exactly clear.  We know the Cards have been keeping tabs on Mark DeRosa, but he’s just moments away from officially signing with the Giants.  The Cardinals have also been linked loosely to Xavier Nady this winter, but it’s quite possible no actual negotiations have taken place.  Pursuing Adrian Beltre would make some sense, and perhaps they’ll even take a look at Jason Bay.

We can dabble in our own set of hypotheticals all night, but what we do know is the Cardinals have a hole in left field and are seeking some offensive protection for Albert Pujols.

Rob Rains of the newly resuscitated St. Louis Globe-Democrat has an idea.  A hypothetical, if you will.  The problem?  It’s not a very good one.

Considering the lack of in-house candidates available,” writes Rains, “…there might be an increasing possibility that the Cardinals
will have to pursue a trade to acquire a left fielder, should the
Holliday stalemate finally reach the breaking point
.”

If, or when, the Cardinals do reach that point, here is a name they
should consider: Pat Burrell
.”

This is not FireJoeMorgan,
and I’m not Ken Tremendous, or dak, or Junior,
but it’s pretty easy to see where Rains’ Globe-Democrat piece goes wrong.  The Cardinals should pursue Pat Burrell?  I’ll agree to disagree.  Actually, I’ll just disagree.

Burrell, 33, finished the 2009 season with an ugly .221/.315/.367 batting line, only 14 home runs and 109 strikeouts in 412 at-bats.  He was unable to stay healthy despite manning designated hitting duties for the Rays and would do little to protect the great Pujols in St. Louis.  Yet, today we read this:

RAINS: “Burrell would fit right into the middle of the lineup as the protector
of Albert Pujols. 
Even though he hits righthanded, much of his power has
come against righthanded pitchers – 164 of his career home runs, as
opposed to only 71 career homers against lefthanders.

Burrell has more home runs against right-handers than he does against lefties.  That’s quite an observation.  Maybe that’s because he has faced 4,331 right-handed pitchers in his career as opposed to just 1,533 southpaws.  In fact, just about every major league hitter with legitimate service time has batted more often against right-handers.

Manny Ramirez, one of the most feared right-handed hitters of all time, has 406 career home runs against right-handed pitchers and just 140 against lefties.  Does that mean he’s a better hitter when facing right-handed competition?  Of course not.  And neither is Burrell.

Burrell vs. RHP:  .249/.348/.463
Burrell vs. LHP:  .269/.403/.513

Ramirez vs. RHP:  .305/.400/.579
Ramirez vs. LHP:  .337/.444/.624

RAINS: “Burrell also is a classic cleanup hitter, which is a status none of the
other potential left-field candidates can claim.

And what, exactly, defines a “classic cleanup hitter?”  Bengie Molina hit cleanup the last two years in San Francisco.  He also finished this season with a lousy .265/.285/.442 batting line and has only reached the 20-homer plateau once in his career.  Is he “classic?”  Mark Teixeira posted a .948 OPS and blasted 39 home runs this season for the Yankees but batted third during 605 of his 609 at-bats.  What’s his status?

RAINS: “Burrell also is not a terrible left fielder. He has played more than
1,100 career games in the majors in left field, averaging about seven
errors a season.

Sure, if you want to ignore all of the progress that has been made in the last 15 years with fielding metrics.  Burrell had a -7.1 UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games) as a left fielder for the Phillies in 2008.  His UZR/150 was -25.2 in 2007 and -13.5 in 2006.   So, yes, Mr. Rains, Burrell is a terrible outfielder.  And your hypothetical Plan B article probably wasn’t worth printing.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”